Molecular Vibration-Sensing Component in Human Olfaction

Condensed Matter journal club

Molecular Vibration-Sensing Component in Human Olfaction

  • Event time: 11:30am
  • Event date: 1st February 2013
  • Speaker: Jay Gillam (Formerly School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)
  • Location: Room 2511,

Event details


Whether olfaction recognizes odorants by their shape, their molecular vibrations, or both remains an open and controversial question. A convenient way to address it is to test for odor character differences between deuterated and undeuterated odorant isotopomers, since these have identical ground-state conformations but different vibrational modes. In a previous paper (Franco et al. (2011) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:9, 3797-802) we showed that fruit flies can recognize the presence of deuterium in odorants by a vibrational mechanism. Here we address the question of whether humans too can distinguish deuterated and undeuterated odorants. A previous report (Keller and Vosshall (2004) Nat Neurosci 7:4, 337-8) indicated that naive subjects are incapable of distinguishing acetophenone and d-8 acetophenone. Here we confirm and extend those results to trained subjects and gas-chromatography [GC]-pure odorants. However, we also show that subjects easily distinguish deuterated and undeuterated musk odorants purified to GC-pure standard. These results are consistent with a vibrational component in human olfaction.
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S. Gane, D. Georganakis, K. Maniati, M. Vamvakias, N. Ragoussis, E.M.C. Skoulakis, L. Turin